McBride in Balanchine’s Jewels, 1967
August 23, 1942 |
Teaneck, New Jersey, U.S.A.
|Awards||Kennedy Center Honors, 2014|
When you dance, it takes a lot of stamina, but it never seemed like work 'cause I was doing something that I so loved doing. It was always a joy. And you know, to have beautiful ballets made specially for you is such an honor. I always said it was better than diamonds.
I cherish the ballets made for myself by Mr. Balanchine. He never lost his temper. He was quiet, humble, the genius of the 20th century.
Conrad Ludlow was an extraordinary partner… We just called him the greatest partner because he just knew what a woman's balance was.
I felt that Balanchine was my father towards me. He was the person I most admired and looked up to.
I've had an extraordinary life as a dancer. You tour the world, you see all the great capitals of the world, the beautiful old opera houses all over Europe – you go everywhere. As a teenager, I would always say, 'I can't believe this is happening to little me,' because it was always a dream to dance.
I have such respect for… the Kennedy Center Honors. To be an artist in America and to be honored for it is extraordinary. In Europe, they really honor their artists. And you are on a very high level. And here it's not as revered as it is in Europe or Russia or anywhere in the world.
The ballets you do make you into the final product you are. And I had extraordinary partners.
I danced with Jacques d'Amboise. At that time, he was the tallest man in the company. So it was a different kind of choreography. It was lyrical.
Mr. Balanchine wanted me to be myself. He didn't want me to look like anyone else. I love teaching our company dancers the Balanchine ballets. I try to give them what was passed down to me and what I learned from him. They dance it so beautifully. It also keeps me close to Mr. Balanchine. He's with me every single day.
My daughter arrived when I was five months pregnant with my son. We adopted Melanie from Korea; she was 2 years old, almost 3. I always wanted to have a family. I had a good example because Melissa Hayden was a ballerina in our company, and she had two children and danced afterward, and Allegra Kent also did.
I remember my dreams when I was a junior soloist. 'Oh, I hope I don't end here,' I thought. 'I want to do the ballerina in 'Scotch Symphony.' I don't want to be the little Scotch girl.' And I actually went beyond my wildest dreams. I worked with Balanchine. I had ballets choreographed for me.
Mr. Balanchine was a great gentleman, and he loved his dancers. He was devoted to his company. He came to the ballet every night, and his presence was felt. It was like the whole company was dancing for him. And if he liked you, he trusted you to be yourself. He didn't try to change you and make you into something you were not.
I used to say I didn't want to teach. I was still excited about dancing. It's hard to do both. It's as exhausting teaching as it is to dance.
I always had an inferiority complex, like I wasn't good enough. I was shy. But dancing gave me so much joy, and I was good at it. I felt like a whole person because I could dance.
It was a pleasure to meet President Obama and Michelle. I'm not a political person, but I admire what he has done.
In Europe, a great dancer might be on the same level as a movie star. In America, not so.
I am just so thankful that my mom was a fantastic mom. She wasn't a stage mother; she didn't push me. She was happy if I was happy. We are so different. I was very shy; my mom did all the talking. She was my strength. She never expected that I would be this ballerina.
I want to be happy, to look back and feel I danced well at the end of my career and didn't dwindle off. It would be too sad.
In the beginning, he taught you how to hold your fingers, use your head, hold your shoulders, how you glissade, bourre – the exact way he wanted you to do the steps. It was relearning the whole Balanchine technique.
It was extraordinary 'cause I was 17 years old when I first danced with Edward Villella. And we were both young. But I had seen him dance, and he was already a star. So he was just so gentle and wonderful and kind, and we had a great rapport together. He was one of the most exciting dancers of our day.
When I hung up my toe shoes, I didn't look back. In all my years, I have never looked back.